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    HOW CAN I INCREASE MY CHANCES OF GETTING FINANCIAL AID?

      

    The best ways to qualify for scholarships are to make good grades ( high GPA), take rigorous courses (Advanced Placement, Dual enrollment), score well on the SAT and ACT and perform community service. Many scholarships require students to do well, although not necessarily be at the top of their class. They can offset a weak GPA with sports or art talent. Financial aid is assessed each year , and it’s worth applying even if you think you don’t qualify. “Aid” doesn’t mean scholarships and grants based on financial need, there are also merit awards, work-study programs, grants and certain loan programs available regardless of need. Realistically appraise your gifts, talents, hobbies, and appetite for work. Unless you are in the top 1 or 2 percent of athletes, for example, the odds of getting an athletic scholarship are very low. Good grades, good test scores, or leadership of a community service project, however, are much more likely to attract the favor of scholarship-granting organizations.
    Students may be willing to study harder and retake the SATs if they see they can get a full-tuition scholarship.
    You have to be aware that the schools have varying definitions of " need. " Some of the schools provide enough grants to make up the difference between the family's federal " expected family contribution " and the school cost of attendance. Others calculate their own (often higher) EFC and still leave a gap of several thousand dollars to be covered by student loans and part-time jobs.

     


    WHEN DO I HAVE TO START LOOKING FOR A SCHOLARSHIP?

     

    START EARLY!! It’s a good idea to start looking and apply for scholarships early, many awards are given in a first-come first-serve basis. If you will be a sophomore or a junior in the fall, the summer is the perfect time to start the search. Search both “financial need” and “admissions” on College Web sites for scholarships ( see the list at the end of this page) , and pay special attention to individual application deadlines. Also, ask admissions offices if there are scholarships for any special talent.
    Many scholarships applications require students to submit resumes and references. That get students to start thinking early in high school about what they have achieved and what they want to study in college. Don’t wait until the last minute and rush it: you will leave out information and your application will look sloppy !

     


    WHAT SHOULD I DO?

     

    The financial-aid process is complex, which is why you have to fill up the forms and collect all the required papers on time. If you live in Florida the Florida Department of Education offers a variety of student financial aid. You can apply for State of Florida financial aid programs by completing the Florida Financial Aid Application online at www.FloridaStudentFinancialAid.org .
    Most federal financial aid programs and some Florida’s programs require students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov . There are certain state grants and scholarship programs that require you to apply directly with your selected college(s), see the institution web page for details. Often the best free money comes from colleges themselves, sometimes in the form of grants to students from middle-income or low-income families, and sometimes to students who meet some type of talent or academic criteria.
    Don’t rule out private Colleges: in some cases they can be less expensive than state universities. With merit aid, for example, a student can win a full scholarship to the University of Miami which could cost less than attending the University of Florida.
    Make sure you apply to several schools, including a few low-priced public schools and a few private schools for which your scores and grades are in the top 25 percent. Research shows students who have more options get more aid.
    Call Ahead! Many college’s admissions and financial aid offices will be happy to give a parent who is willing to describe a student and the family's financial situation a ballpark idea of whether the student would be eligible for any merit aid.
    Those hoping for big scholarships to pricier colleges, most of them out of Florida, can check in U.S. World News and World Report the list of schools that claim to meet the full financial need of students, and the list of schools that hand out lots of "merit" aid, which is awarded regardless of a family's income.
    You can get more information on college application and financing choices online at studentaid.ed.gov and students.gov. ( see also the list of web pages at the end of this section).

     


    CAN MY PARENTS NEGOTIATE WITH FINANCIAL AID OFFICERS?

     

    It can’t hurt to ask: The government set formulas that schools must follow for federal student-aid programs, from Pell grants to Plus loans, but college officials may make adjustments when they feel is warranted. If your parents have a solid case ( a sudden change in income, a death, divorce, high medical bills) backed up by documentation, ask for a “professional judgment review” in a letter addressed to the financial aid officer. Strengthen the letter by including supporting documentation.
    Also, if you receive a more attractive package from another school , send the aid offer to the school of your choice and see if they will match it. College is a competitive place, it can be rewarding to make the colleges compete for you!!


    WHAT WEB PAGES ARE USEFUL AND FREE?

     

    There are plenty of resources for students looking for colleges and scholarship money, here you have a list of the most known web pages:

    *http://www.fastweb.com/ *http://www.collegeanswer.com/paying/scholarship_search/pay_scholarship_search.jsp
    *
    www.scholarships.com
    * http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/unusual.phtml
    * www.studentaid.ed.gov
    * www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov
    * http://cnsearch.collegenet.com/cgi-bin/CN/index
    * www.CollegeIsPossible.org
    * http://www.nationalmerit.org/
    * www.scholarshipsforhispanics.org/
    * www.ushccfoundation.org
    * www.scholarship.org
    * www.discoverfinancial.com/data/philanthropy/tribute.shtml
    * www.lagrantfoundation.org
    * http://yesican.gov/secondary/paying/financial_aid.html ;
    * www.facts.org
    * http://www.ed.gov
    good luck!!

     

      

     

    WHAT OTHER FACTORS AFFECT THE SCHOLARSHIPS?

     

    Private scholarships can actually reduce parts of your financial aid package. How? Colleges must consider outside scholarships as a student’s financial resource, available to pay for education costs. If a college financial aid office meets your full financial need, government regulations specify that any scholarship money won lowers the need figure on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
    What should matter to you is which type of aid are reduced or eliminated: self-help aids (loans or work-study) or need base grants. Colleges, following federal regulations, can adjust aid packages in a variety of ways : some will subtract the value of unmet need first, others will reduce self-help aid before reducing grants, still others will use scholarship fund only to replace grant money. Some colleges even give the option of using scholarships to reduce the expected family contribution.
    Therefore, it is a good idea to contact the financial aid office of the colleges you are interested in, and inquire about their policies regarding outside scholarships.

     

     


    WHAT IF I START TO WORK BEFORE GOING TO COLLEGE?

     

    The financial aid consultants say that working can greatly reduce financial aid , because the student income is supposed to be routed to college, while most income from parents is expected to go for broad family needs. For example, if a student works for a year and make $10,000, the family’s financial aid the next year could be cut by about $4,000.
    You have to look for financial aid as your first choice.